By Dr. Mohammed Nadeem
Last month, I respectfully submitted my letter of interest for appointment to the vacant City Council seat. With less than five months remaining on the term, all I wanted to do was my best — to serve Santa Clarans. Humility, plus an opportunity to heal and apply my judgment and common sense as best as I would, have been my operating principles.
On June 12, the Council had a chance to choose from over 20 total applicants and appoint any of the final five top-ranked candidates: Eversley Forte, Hosam Haggag, Suds Jain, Kevin Park, and myself — all qualified candidates who represent groups not currently represented on the council.
Mayor Lisa Gillmor, Vice Mayor Kathy Watanabe, Councilmembers Debi Davis and Teresa O’Neill all were willing to vote to appoint a candidate. And they voted for each of the final five candidates in succession. However, after several hours of interviews, questioning, and multiple rounds of ranking candidates, two council members, Patricia Mahan, and Pat Kolstad voted for none. I felt betrayed and disgusted by their petty and dirty politics. My time wasted.
The night of the Council interviews was the night of the end of Ramadan nightly prayer called “Khatam” at the Muslim Community Association (MCA) and not only I missed that, but I also missed the much-revered celebration with my family and friends.
Measure Q, passed in 2016 gave full authority to a Council supermajority to make appointments in the case of a vacancy. But Councilmembers Mahan and Kolstad wouldn’t even vote for a qualified candidate. It was uncivilized and appalling because the council had a chance to do the right thing and didn’t after seven hours of theatrics. Indeed it was not a fine example of democracy.
Over the years, as leaders of the City, we failed to address a demographic representation issue. With Hon. Judge Thomas Kuhnle’s CVRA decision pending with potentially $2-$3 million in costs to the City, and forced community outreach and a short timeline on a redistricting process, we find ourselves vulnerable because of self-inflicted wounds. Council Members Mahan and Kolstad could have potentially lessened the City’s financial burden and avoided this by making a good faith effort of filling the vacant council seat.
Mayor Gillmor recently said in an interview with the Mercury News [June 28] that: “The goal is to diversify our Council.” In hindsight, there was a significant opportunity to diversify the council, and two Council members blocked that from happening – with no compelling reasoning.
Now we face inevitable changes to our city’s election system without much notice or input from residents because of a tight District mapping schedule and even narrower November 2018 council candidate application and fundraising timeline.
As proud Santa Clarans, together we shall permanently improve the City’s fiscal health, image, and reputation.
Editor’s Note: This opinion piece was edited for length and clarity with the author’s approval.